Two victims killed and mutilated in Utica in January 2019. Two families with vastly different reactions as their loved ones’ killer is sentenced in County Court.
Naythen Aubain killed his 90-year-old grandmother, Katherine Aubain, and their 87-year-old landlord, Jane Wentka, at their Tilden Avenue home on Jan. 6, 2019.
After months of mental health treatment and psychological testing, multiple doctors determined that Aubain was suffering from a psychotic episode when he mutilated the women’s bodies and buried his grandmother in a shallow grave.
But rather than be found not guilty due to mental disease or defect, Aubain, age 30, pleaded guilty in January 2021 to two counts of second-degree manslaughter, reduced from second-degree murder.
Court officials said on Monday that it was determined that Aubain used drugs on the day of the killings, knowing full well that drugs could trigger a violent episode.
“All you needed to do was refrain from putting those substances in your system,” said First Assistant District Attorney Michael Coluzza in court on Monday. Because Aubain took the drugs, Coluzza said the two women “died in horror.”
Aubain was sentenced by County Court Judge Robert L. Bauer to 15 to 30 years in state prison on the two counts of manslaughter.
“I will spend the rest of my life knowing my mother suffered in her last few hours,” wrote Lucille Owens, daughter and last surviving family member of Jane Wentka. Owens did not speak in court, instead writing a letter that was read aloud by Coluzza. Owens and other family members were present in the courtroom.
Owens called Aubain a “coward” and “totally devoid of feeling and empathy.”
She wrote that “the thought of him ever being free terrifies me.” Owens asked Judge Bauer to sentence Aubain to the maximum so that her mother need not have died in vain.
Supporters: Treatment needed
Meanwhile, Aubain’s family blamed the mental health system in Oneida County and how it failed to help Aubain over the years.
“I’m not sure how anything thinks 15 to 30 years in a prison is going to help him. Because truly what he needs is treatment for his disorders,” said Vanessa Colon, a longtime family friend. Colon said she spoke for the family, including Aubain’s mother, the daughter of Katherine Aubain. Aubain’s family was also in the courtroom. “The mental health system around here, the substance abuse system around here, is clearly not adequate,” Colon said in court. “Somebody at a higher level should have stepped in.”
Colon mentioned previous brushes Aubain has had with the law for being violent, including attacking Katherine Aubain months earlier. She said an order of protection had been filed against Aubain to protect his grandmother, and he had been offered a bed in shelter, but still he was living with his grandmother.
“Naythen had all of these people in the community watching over him. They knew he could be violent. They knew he needed treatment. It was not properly given to him,” Colon said.
“When people are getting proper treatment, they can live normal lives. It’s not provoking when it’s inside his head. It’s his illness coming out all over the place. Naythen needed to be protected from himself.”
Colon said she had grown up alongside Aubain, and everyone knew that his grandmother took special care of him. Colon said Katherine Aubain knew something was different about Naythen, but she was perhaps unable to get him the proper help.
Colon said Aubain had even come to her for help several times.
“I’m sorry that it wasn’t me (who stepped up to help him). I can’t change that it wasn’t me,” Colon said in court. She noted that Aubain would not have asked for this to have happened, and that “a person also doesn’t ask for a mental illness.”
Killer expresses remorse
When it was his turn to speak, Aubain apologized for what he had done.
“I’m so ashamed of myself. I’m a horrible person for what I did. Words can’t express how sorry I am for what I did,” Aubain told Judge Bauer.
“I know no one will ever forgive me for what I did, but I want everyone to know I’m truly sorry.”
Aubain said the two women he killed were the only people he had in his life and he loved them dearly. He said he hopes to use his time in prison to help young inmates, and he hopes to someday help others with mental health issues.
Aubain thanked Jesus Christ for being with him and for giving him a reason to go on.